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President Trump’s American System: Why rebuilding 0ur infrastructure and placing America first will help our national economy
September 7, 2017

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In Ohio, President Donald Trump discussed his plan to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. Rebuilding the national infrastructure is just one aspect of President Trump's America First economic agenda. President Trump is also looking to reform trade policy by renegotiating NAFTA, and he has already pulled the nation out of the Trans Pacific Partnership. President Trump is also calling for a renewal of the steel industry. The steel industry is suffering from unfair international trade, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is examining the implications on national security.

President Trump is now implementing an agenda focused on placing America first and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and middle-class, as he promised during his campaign for the presidency. In his inaugural address, President Trump made his commitment to America First even more clear. "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first," stated President Trump. "Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families," stressed the President.

President Trump's call for infrastructure spending and revision of trade policy in the national interest is similar to the economic philosophy of the American System, which was developed by Alexander Hamilton and later supported by Whig leader Henry Clay. The American System called for tariffs to not only provide revenue for the government, but also to protect the American economy and fund internal improvements.

Perhaps one of the most forgotten individuals in American history is Henry C. Carey (1793-1879), who was an influential economist, promoter of the American System, and economic adviser to President Abraham Lincoln. Henry C. Carey wrote extensively on political economy. Carey also defended the American tariff system against the free-trade system of England.

Carey's influence was reflective of the political economy of the Republican Party from President Lincoln through President Herbert Hoover. As Patrick J. Buchanan wrote: "Protectionism is the structuring of trade policy to protect the national sovereignty, ensure economic self-reliance, and 'prosper America first.' It was the policy of the Republican Party from Abraham Lincoln to Calvin Coolidge. America began that era in 1860 with one half of Britain's production and ended it producing more than all of Europe put together. Is this a record to be ashamed of?" The United States became a leading manufacturing power which defined the 20th century as the "American Century."

Recently, President Trump honored American manufacturers who are making things in America at the White House. The President was honoring those manufacturers and entrepreneurs, who are not only producing quality products and services in the United States, but are also providing jobs and building the middle class. As President Trump moves forward to advance his policies of improving our national infrastructure and placing American interests first in trade policy, he is following in the direction of the American System.

President Trump's call for rebuilding our national infrastructure and reforming our trade policies may be stirring the hornets' nest of internationalists and globalists, but by placing America first he is attempting to restore both our national manufacturing base and in the process, build a stronger middle class.

John Hendrickson is a research analyst for the Public Interest Institute, Muscatine.

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